One of the core functions of each state, and the Federal Government, is creating the infrastructure necessary to conduct commerce, trade and allow general transportation. I strongly support maintaining, modernizing and expanding America’s transportation system and feel that work is critical to our country’s long-term productivity and economic competitiveness.
In Arizona, particularly in the rural communities of the fourth district, our highways, roads, bridges and railroads are in particular need of attention. Our state is the second fastest growing state in the nation. Its population has nearly quadrupled since 1970. This population growth has posed additional strains on our state’s transportation infrastructure system.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a strong supporter of Arizona transportation initiatives. I have worked with local cities, towns, counties, and tribal governments to advocate on behalf of rural Arizona projects. I have fought to ensure federal transportation programs give rural communities a fair shot in a competitive process and to spend the scarce transportation dollars we have more efficiently.
Interstate 11 and the Intermountain West Corridor Development
I was instrumental in the initial authorization of the future I-11 corridor project by championing authorizing language included in MAP-21, the major transportation and infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2012. This was the critical first step of the major economic development project that will connect Phoenix and Las Vegas, the two largest cities in the nation not linked by an interstate highway. CLICK HERE to read more about this successful effort.
As the co-chair of the House I-11 Caucus, I continue to push this Arizona priority forward and to expand the coalition of stakeholders and advocates. In March 2015, I introduced the Intermountain West Corridor Development Act of 2015. This legislation extends the future I-11 beyond the Phoenix – Las Vegas region to connect shipping ports in Southern Arizona through Northern Nevada to existing major interstate networks in the Northwest. Extending I-11 and allowing it to become the main transportation corridor in the West will be an economic boon for our communities, creating jobs, allowing for an easier flow of goods and services and authorizing the construction of much needed infrastructure. Getting I-11 built is just commonsense and the associated economic benefits will help future Arizona generations indefinitely. My bill was included as a provision in H.R. 22, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, and was signed into law by Obama in December 2015. CLICK HERE to read more to read more about this successful effort.
The Grand Canyon Tourism Jobs Protection Act of 2012
In the 112th Congress, I introduced bipartisan standalone legislation, the Grand Canyon Tourism Jobs Protection Act of 2012 (H.R.4198), to protect tourism jobs and preserve natural quiet at the Grand Canyon National Park. The provisions of H.R.4198 were ultimately codified into public law through Section 35001 of H.R.4348, also known as MAP-21. The air tour and tourism industries at the Grand Canyon are critical to Arizona’s economy. In 2011, tourism at the Grand Canyon helped sustain more than 300,000 jobs. The air tour industry around this historic landmark supported 1,250 good-paying jobs in Arizona and Nevada during that same timeframe. This commonsense legislation will create good-paying jobs and boost economic activity in an extremely rural area and in February 2014, the FAA announced 1,721 additional Grand Canyon flights per year utilizing quiet technology as a result of my commonsense legislation. CLICK HERE to read more.
The Responsibility in Federal Contracting Act
In January 2015, I introduced H.R. 924, the Responsibility in Federal Contracting Act, legislation which requires the calculation of wages for public works projects to be based on actual statistics calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For far too long, wages for public works projects have been determined by an outdated and flawed formula that sacrifices accuracy, jobs and billions of federal tax dollars. The current calculation dates back to the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act and is riddled with fraud and abuse as evidenced by multiple Inspector General (IG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports. A 2008 Department of Labor Inspector General (IG) report found that “one or more errors existed in 100 percent of the wage reports.” Research conducted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that upwards of $13 billion could be wasted over 10 years if Davis-Bacon is left unreformed. Another reputable economic analysis projected that reforming the current method would have saved the federal government nearly $11 billion in 2011 alone. My commonsense legislation will cut waste, create jobs and save billions. CLICK HERE to read more.
The Historic Routes Preservation Act
In January, I joined several of my colleagues in introducing the Historic Routes Preservation Act, legislation which allows local counties to resolve public lands right-of-way disputes without going to court. This bipartisan bill provides a useful tool for cleaning up maps in western states and allows confirmation of rights-of-way on public lands through an administrative process, as opposed to the current expensive judicial process. Counties throughout the West shouldn’t have to spend precious resources on litigation in order to keep public roads open, especially when counties have been paying to maintain these roads for decades. This bill provides a commonsense solution that will maintain public access and prevent government bureaucrats from arbitrarily closing historic routes. CLICK HERE to read more.
Prohibiting Funds for an Unconstitutional Roadside Survey
In June 2014, I first pushed a legislative effort to prohibit funds for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey. This program was not only wasteful and ineffective, but it was an infringement on our Constitutional rights to privacy and the 4th Amendment civil liberties of American Citizens. The implementation of the survey used uniformed police officers to stop drivers and allow researchers to collect a passive alcohol sensor reading before the driver agreed to participate in the survey. Previous surveys have squandered almost $8 million dollars of taxpayer money and done nothing to make our communities safer. CLICK HERE to learn more this successful legislative effort that was signed into federal law in both the 2014 and 2015 end-of-the-year spending bills.
Ensuring Scarce Highway Trust Funds go to Infrastructure Needs
In recent years, more and more resources have been sucked out of the highway trust fund and diverted to wasteful and unnecessary transit projects that only benefit a small fraction of Americans. In June of 2015, the House passed my amendment to prohibit any funds from being used for the Federal Transit Administration’s proposed Rapid Growth Area Transit Program. With significant infrastructure needs, including road and bridge maintenance, now is not the time to be spending $500 million on a new discretionary bus transit program. I have worked tirelessly to eliminate waste in federal transportation spending and to redirect our priorities and resources to projects at the core of the Highway Trust Fund’s mission: Roads and Bridges. CLICK HERE to learn more about this successful amendment that blocked one of President Obama’s terrible new proposals and kept $500 million in the Highway Trust Fund.
Federal Transportation and Infrastructure Spending and the Gas Tax
The U.S. Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956 primarily to finance the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system, is funded by the federal taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, The fund, which also funds mass transit, is approaching insolvency—an all-too-common occurrence for programs managed by our federal government. During my relatively short tenure in Congress, I have been a strong supporter of worthwhile transportation efforts that prioritize projects and don’t increase federal spending. Most Americans agree that improved nationwide infrastructure is a must. However, there are differing views on how we should fund the needed improvements.
Many lawmakers have proposed an increase to fuel taxes that have been at their current rates since President Clinton signed them into law in 1993. The increases initially went toward deficit reduction, but a 1997 law channeled the money to the Highway Fund. Rather than eliminate wasteful spending to come up with money for essential infrastructure projects, many lawmakers instead want to impose another onerous tax increase on the American people. In President Obama’s FY 2016 budget, he did not recommend increasing the gas tax but instead proposed increasing corporate taxes to fund the improvements—another proposal I reject. Some believe that the timing is ripe for such an increase with gas prices the lowest they have been in years. But Washington’s biggest problem is wasteful spending, and I am committed to solving that problem rather than exacerbating it with another tax increase.
Supporting Local Community Priorities
I have consistently gone to bat for local community transportation priorities. I have been a strong supporter of the FAA's the Contract Tower Program and done everything in my power to keep Bullhead City’s tower off the chopping block. In July 2015, the eastbound side of an I-10 collapsed during a massive monsoon impeding travel and the economic flow of goods between Arizona and California. I teamed up with my California colleagues to seek an expedited fix for the bridge. I have sent multiple letters of support for community projects seeking TIGER grants. These include but are not limited to: supporting the State Route 347 Grade Separation Project in Maricopa County, supporting Interstate 10 and Interstate 17 Spine Corridor improvements, supporting phases III and IV of the Hunt Highway widening project in Pinal County, supporting the Multi-Model Transportation Center in downtown Yuma, supporting the new trans-load project in La Paz County, supporting rehabilitating the Virgin River Bridge on Interstate 15, supporting for the Ehrenberg Port of Entry project, supporting the Bridge Over Tonto Creek in Gila County, seeking resources for the environmental analysis for the future I-11 corridor.
We can address our pressing transportation needs without borrowing billions more and sending our country further into debt. The federal government needs to get our priorities in order and stop wasting taxpayer money on things we don’t need. I will continue to advocate for our communities while fighting for fiscally sustainable transportation solutions in the 114th Congress.